PBT’s Wednesday Night Winners/Losers: Philly is winless no more

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Every night the NBA can be a cold hard reality — there are winners, there are losers. It’s the nature of the game. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to bring you the best and worst of the NBA each week night. Here’s what you missed while stealing an ambulance so you could go to a strip club

source:  Philadelphia 76ers. It wasn’t pretty. Nobody with the Sixers cares. This is a team that was on the verge of tying the NBA all-time consecutive losses to start a season record but they got a repreive and picked up a win, 85-77, knocking off a depleted Minnesota team. The Sixers did it despite shooting just 39 percent because Minnesota’s offense was worse, shooting just 35.7 percent (and Minny was 3-of-17 from three). The Sixers scored just nine points in the entire second quarter. The Sixers started 1-of-20 from three (but hit four in a row late). None of that was because of great defense, either. This entire game lived down to expectations. Yet Michael Carter-Williams stepped up with a near triple-double (20 points , 9 rebounds, 9 assists, who cares if it took him 20 shots to get there) and off the bench Robert Covington had 17 points (including three fourth quarter threes). It’s a win. Philadelphia will take it.

source:  Referees in Sixers/Timberwolves. Are you kidding me? They had to replay the first 16 seconds of the Sixers/Timberwolves game because the two teams were shooting at the wrong baskets. Which pretty much summed up this entire game. But while it’s easy to laugh and say “it figures, it’s the Sixers/Wolves” this isn’t on the teams, it’s on the referees for not noticing and fixing it before. They are the cops out there and they were caught thinking about donuts, not doing their job.

source:  Kyle Lowry. The Raptors’ star point guard looked up, saw two Utah rookies had the assignment to cover him, and started to drool. With no DeMar DeRozan for another month or so Toronto needs more nights like this, where Lowry looks to get himself going first. He finished with 39 points (a career high) on 13-of-22 shooting. He got whatever shot he wanted and hit most of them.

source:  Houston Rockets. No Dwight Howard. Or Patrick Beverley. Or Terrence Jones. Or Isaiah Canaan. Yet the Houston Rockets handed the Grizzlies just their third defeat of the season. They did it by getting out and running on Memphis, a team that wants to slow it down and make every game the pace of a playoff game. This game was played at 99 possessions, which is up in Denver Nuggets territory and faster than either team likes to play. The Rockets had 25 fast break points on the night and their pressure wouldn’t let the Grizzlies’ defense get set, and at that pace Memphis had 20 turnovers. Also a good night from Donatas Motiejunas with 15 points and 7 boards, but more importantly really strong defense in the paint as he and the Rockets held Marc Gasol in check (8 points). Houston had 23 offensive rebounds on the night, also.

source:  Monta Ellis. It’s not exactly what you’d call an efficient night for Ellis, who had 23 points but needed 26 shots to get there. Didn’t matter, he got away with it. Just like he got away with a travel on the last shot — no call then he got the difficult shot to fall. Dallas wins.

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.